Why it's time to move to Welwyn Garden City
PUBLISHED: 17:59 22 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:01 20 February 2013
There can't be many new towns, let alone cities, which have stayed true to the vision of the founding fathers but this is one of them, as Pat Bramley discovers
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Chris Gladstone ofGladstone Framing
RESIDENTS of Welwyn Garden City believe social reformer Ebenezer Howard would feel pretty chuffed if he were around today that a century after he first published his structure plan for a city in a garden, the realisation of his dream continues to be a source of pride for those who live there.
Howards new town was developed in the 1920s only the second in the UK, the first being Letchworth in 1903 and it couldnt be less like the much dreaded concrete urban jungle. Good old Ebenezer envisaged city buildings woven into a pattern of leafy boulevards and green open spaces and campuses. And it works.
It is a city which is like a garden, agrees long-time resident Andrea Overington. We have everything here. We have a huge John Lewis, all the major high street stores, a brand new Sainsburys, Tescos, an extended Waitrose, loads of parking you very rarely have to queue for a space even at Christmas.
Andrea lives in the town and works as a sales negotiator at the Welwyn Village branch of estate agent Bryan Bishop. Outsiders are often unaware there are two different Welwyns. Welwyn village, not far up the road from the city, dates back to Roman times. The 20th-century new town has its own charms. No amount of progress has spoilt either place. Strict planning laws see to that.
Rail: There are two lines into London from Welwyn Garden City station. Fast trains to Kings Cross St Pancras get there in 22 minutes. Theres also a service into Moorgate which takes about 35 minutes.
The station is in the Howard Centre, the shopping mall named after the father of the new town movement.
Road: Its a five-minute drive to the A1(M), ten minutes to the M25.
Air: Luton, Stansted and Heathrow are within 30-40 minutes commute.
Welwyn Garden City has three state secondary schools Sir Frederick Osborn, Monks Walk and Stanborough.
For private education, Sherrardswood on the outskirts of the city is a co-ed for pupils from nursery age through to sixth form. Following an inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in February this year, the assessors reported: A very friendly school, the behaviour is goodgood teaching, broad curriculum.pupils enjoy learning and work hard.
Shopping and leisure
Ebenezer Howard decreed there should be no more than three licensed premises in his city-in-a-garden and there are still only three pubs here, says Andrea Overington. His bylaws have always been adhered to. All new buildings must blend with the veneer of neo-Georgian architecture. You cant even change the style of a window. The Beehive area developed in the 1960s is now a conservation area. There are no 1960s picture windows.
Outwardly the city may appear to be rooted in the 1920s but its not short of modern facilities for sports and entertainment.
Cyclists inspired to raise their performance by the prospect of next years London Olympics can work up speed at the velodrome at Gosling Park. Other sports catered for include tennis, squash, skiing, badminton, golf, indoor bowls and athletics. A spa centre is the latest attraction.
Campus West has a theatre/cinema, conference rooms, public rink and a roller skating rink. The Barn Theatre has an enthusiastic junior section as well as a full programme for adults. There are man-made lakes in the 126-acre wildlife haven at Stanborough Park and a golf club with some strong celebrity links.
How much to live here?
Larger houses designed by Louis de Soissons for the garden city in the 1920s today fetch more than a million.
The houses in the heart of the town were mainly built in the 1920s and 1930s. The main era for growth was the 1950s.
Andrea at Bryan Bishop says you could expect to pay around 210,000 for an ex-council three-bedroom terrace the equivalent on a privately built estate sell for about 300,000.
Four-bedroom detached houses on the pricier west side of town typically go for in excess of half a million. The same in the less expensive area are anything upwards from 350,000.